According to Christianity, being a disciple of Jesus Christ puts a follower in privileges and blessings that the world in its entirety cannot offer.1 It is worth noting that the Christian faith is based on the transformation of the world through the spreading of the truth and preaching about God’s Kingdom.
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Believers should repent their sins, be initiated into discipleship, and be trained to become committed followers who will eventually preach to other people.2 ,3, 4 Gradually, the gospel would be taught throughout the world as per the intentions of Jesus Christ.
This paper discusses some of the issues pertaining discipleship in Christianity, including obedience and submission to Christ, teaching, and helping others obey and become Disciples of Christ. The paper is based on the thesis that discipleship in Christianity is based on the centrality of Christ.
The Importance of Centrality of Christ in Christian Discipleship
Jesus Christ was the initiator of discipleship. He selected a few people, made them His disciples, and trained them to be disciple-makers.2
Therefore, Christian discipleship should place Jesus as the center of focus by taking his example in teaching about the kingdom of God, applying the same procedures, having similar intentions of transforming the world, and teaching others about how to be good teachers and preachers of the truth and the kingdom of God.3
Obedience as a Reflection of the Discipleship of Christ
In Christianity, obedience goes beyond the adherence to set rules to infer to the total surrender of personal will and the submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.2 When Christians submit their wills to Christ, they are prepared to follow His example and benefit from His instructions. 5 Thus, a disciple is expected to exhibit obedience.
Obeying Christ will result conforming to His will through fulfilling the Greatest Commandment, the New Commandment, and the Great Commission.2 Christ would not expect anything more than obedience and complete submission from His followers.
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Areas in Life That a Disciple Must Submit to Christ
Submission and obedience should be done in totality where everything must be surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. It is imperative to note that becoming a disciple of Christ entails total life changes. The disciple is expected to be entirely dependent on Christ rather than self. As such, submission to Christ should be evident in all aspects, including possessions, faith, family, and work among other aspects of day-to-day lives.2
Three Stages of Discipleship
Declaration (Believing in Jesus)
Human beings fall short of the expectations of God and, therefore, they require the assistance of Christ to acquire salvation. They are initiated to salvation through declaration, which is the first stage of discipleship. The stage involves new believers making lifestyles turn-around and following Christ. As such, they abandon their ways of life and are introduced to a new life, which is in compliant with God’s expectations.
The initiation/declaration stage is characterized by believing in Christ and the confession and repentance of sins, which are considered ways of becoming a believer. As such, believing in Jesus is the only way of getting salvation.2
Development (Following Jesus)
The Christian faith is somewhat comprehensive and compound and, therefore, believers should be deliberately trained to understand its vital concepts. Earley and Dempsey (2013) give the impression that this is the stage where new believers are really taken into discipleship and thus they make the decision to follow Jesus.
It is worth noting that transforming a human being from the original sinful nature to the nature acceptable to the Christian way of life is demanding and, therefore, should be done in meticulous and deliberate manners. As such, the new believer would be fully equipped and grounded on the Christian faith. The development stage, therefore, is intended to make a disciple a devoted follower with in-depth knowledge and strong faith in Christ.2
Deployment (Going out/Working for Jesus)
Equipped and trained workers require places/fields where they can employ their skills. This is the case with Christian discipleship processes. After being initiated and trained, disciples become fully equipped with the knowledge about the kingdom of God and are, therefore, expected to work.
In the deployment stage, therefore, the disciples are expected to work for Christ and multiply as they teach the good news to other.2
How the Stages Work Together
The three discipleship stages could be equated to recruiting, training, and deployment of workers in a company. The three exercises are interconnected and work together. It is also vital that the exercises are performed in appropriate phases to enhance efficacy.
Jesus Christ is the center of discipleship and, therefore, the three stages work around Him. They are based on the Great Commission where following, transforming, and fishing for others are emphasized. A new follower is expected to make a declaration of following Christ, be developed (transformed) to be deployed. The stages work in that sequence in an individual and in the entire body of Christ.
Helping Disciples Take the Steps of Obedience
Obedience is key in the Christian faith and in the course of discipleship. As such, it is imperative to provide obedience-based discipleship.2, 3 Being an obedient disciple is deliberate and, therefore, disciples should be deliberate in deciding to be submissive to the will of Christ. It is worth noting that disciples need help in obeying since it may be a challenge to many. Therefore, it is prudent that the disciples are provided with the help they need.
The disciples can be assisted in various ways. First, it is worth teaching on the benefits of obedience. Disciples should be constantly reminded of the benefits of obedience, which Walker (2013) described as nothing that the world can offer.
Second, it is imperative to put in place structures that will help disciples obey Christ as they grow in faith.4 The structures will enhance proper communication, fellowshipping, and accountability in the processes of taking the steps of obedience.
Third, it should be made clear on what the disciples should obey. As such, the definition of terms such as discipleship should be part of the teaching and training for disciples.4
Lastly, it is imperative to ask for help from the initiator of discipleship, Jesus Christ. 6 Praying and reading from the teachings of Jesus on discipleship should be used to provide guidance in taking steps of obedience.
It is evident that discipleship is a critical aspect of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ and His teaching on the kingdom of God are the centers of discipleship. As such, discipleship was initiated by Jesus and is now propagated by His followers.
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It is worth noting that obedience is an integral element in Christian discipleship. In His teachings, Jesus gave various commandments, including the Great Commandment, The New Commandment, and the Great Commission. Adhering to these commandments and the absolute submission to the Lordship of Christ reflects true discipleships.
Obviously, submission of personal will by Christians to the Lordship of Christ should be done in absoluteness. As such, Christ’s disciples should deliberately submit all aspects of their lives to Christ for discipleship to be realized.
Earley and Dempsey (2013) provide a three-stage process through which discipleship should occur. The three stages, including declaration, development, and deployment, and can be equated to the exercises recruiting, training, and deploying of workers in a company, which work in harmony.
Obeying Christ and becoming a disciple of christ is challenging, especially to new believers. It is, therefore, imperative to provide the needed help to all disciples. Some of the ways in which disciples can be helped to obey include teaching, creation of organizational structures, and having standardization of terms definitions during goals setting.
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Discipleship making is… Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2013.
Jackson, Bill. “Becoming a Church that Makes Disciple-Making Leaders: Part I.” William Carey International Development Journal, 1, no. 4 (2012): 11-18.
Kagema, Dickson Nkonge. “Marks of True Christian Discipleship: Reflections from Mark 10: 35-45.” Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, 4, no. 7 (2014): 122-127.
Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman. Discipleshift: five steps that help your church to make disciples who make disciples. Grand Rapids; USA: Zondervan Publishers, 2013.
Walker, Jeremy. Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids; MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.
Wright, Don. “N.T. Wright. Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship. Wm. B. Eerdmans.” Journal of Lutheran Ethics 16, no. 1 (2016).
- Walker Jeremy, Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids; MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013), 1-176.
- Earley Dave and Rod Dempsey, Discipleship making is… (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 21-84.
- Jackson Bill, “Becoming a Church that Makes Disciple-Making Leaders: Part I,” William Carey International Development Journal 1, no. 4 (2012): 12.
- Putman Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, Discipleshift: five steps that help your church to make disciples who make disciples (Grand Rapids; MI: Zondervan Publishers, 2013), 41-54.
- Kagema Dickson Nkonge, “Marks of True Christian Discipleship: Reflections from Mark 10: 35-45,” Research on Humanities and Social Sciences 4, no. 7 (2014): 124.
- Wright Don, “N.T. Wright. Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship. Wm. B. Eerdmans,” Journal of Lutheran Ethics, 16, no. 1 (2016).